Sanctimonious Celebrities at “Live Earth” Concert “Eco-Extravaganza”

 

   Global-warming concert participants Garner, Madonna, Ludacris, and Gore.  Source of photos:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

(p. B1)  . . . , celebrity efforts to curb the greenhouse effect backlash into the glass-house effect: People who own Escalades, private jets and McMansions shouldn’t recycle bromides at people who fail to carpool to work. Carbon-offsetting, the newly fashionable practice of compensating for one’s own carbon emissions by paying into a fund to reduce them elsewhere, may be better than nothing, but to some it sounds too much (p. B5) like rich men paying others to take their place in the draft during the Civil War.

That credibility gap seemed to fuel much of the skepticism and sniping along the sidelines (British newspapers which gleefully counted Madonna’s many houses and cars, discouraged readers from following in her outsize carbon footprint) and drove Bob Geldof, founder of Live 8, to question this concert’s usefulness.

 

ALESSANDRA STANLEY. "The TV Watch Sounding the Global-Warming Alarm Without Upsetting the Fans."  The New York Times   (Mon., July 9, 2007):  B1 & B5. 

(Note:  ellipsis added.) 

 

Effective Foreign Aid

 

   "HOMELAND SECURITY.  Many women in Mexico, like Estela Palacio Calzada, with her granddaughter, rely on money sent back from the U.S. "  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

Adam Smith argued in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, that altruism is more effective when it is directed toward those we know best–mainly our family, and immediate neighbors.

A policy implication may be that the most effective foreign aid is to have more open immigration policies, that then permit the migrants to send back funds to those in their home country who they know best.

 

THE money flows in dribs and drabs, crossing borders $200 or $300 at a time. It buys cornmeal and rice and plaid private school skirts and keeps the landlord at bay. Globally, the tally is huge: migrants from poor countries send home about $300 billion a year. That is more than three times the global total in foreign aid, making “remittances” the main source of outside money flowing to the developing world.

Surveys show that 80 percent of the money or more is immediately spent, on food, clothing, housing, education or the occasional beer party or television set. Still, there are tens of billions available for savings or investment, in places where capital is scarce. While remittances have been shown to reduce household poverty, policymakers are looking to increase the effect on economic growth.

Some migrants, for instance, send home money to savings accounts at small bank-like microfinance institutions, which use the resulting capital pool to lend to local entrepreneurs.

 

For the full story, see:

JASON DePARLE. "Migrant Money Flow: A $300 Billion Current."  The New York Times, Week in Review Section  (Sun., November 18, 2007):  3.

 

   Source of map graphic:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

 

Von Hippel Promotes User-Driven Innovation

 

     "Eric von Hippel of M.I.T., left, and Dr. Nathaniel Sims, with hospital devices Dr. Sims has modified. Mr. von Hippel says users can improve on products."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

Some innovation is done by the devoted for free.  But in his books, and in the article excerpted below, I think von Hippel puts too little emphasis on the entrepreneur and the entrepreneur’s profit motive, as drivers of innovation. 

One example is the Moveable Type free program that underlies this, and many other blogs.  It is often described as one of the best blog platforms, but it is hard to use for a non-techie, kludgey, and very limited in some obvious ways.  For example, there apparently is no way that I can make comments to the most recent 10 entries visible on the main blog page.  And there is only limited backup capabilities.  And the spell-checker does not have "blog" in its dictionary, and asks me if I really meant to type "bog."

You can bet that if Moveable Type was produced for profit, they would have provided users these obvious capabilities.  And I would rather pay for a more capable program, rather than get a less capable program for free.

 

(p. 5) DR. NATHANIEL SIMS, an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, has figured out a few ways to help save patients’ lives. 

In doing so, he also represents a significant untapped vein of innovation for companies.

Dr. Sims has picked up more than 10 patents for medical devices over his career. He ginned up a way to more easily shuttle around the dozen or more monitors and drug-delivery devices attached to any cardiac patient after surgery, with a device known around the hospital as the “Nat Rack.”

. . .

What Dr. Sims did is called user-driven innovation by Eric von Hippel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. Mr. von Hippel is the leading advocate of the value of letting users of products modify them or improve them, because they may come up with changes that manufacturers never considered. He thinks that this could help companies develop products more quickly and inexpensively than with their internal design teams.

“It could drive manufacturers out of the design space,” Mr. von Hippel says.

It is a difficult idea for research and development departments to accept, but one of his studies found that 82 percent of new capabilities for scientific instruments like electron microscopes were developed by users.

. . .

One problem with the user-innovation model is that it can run into intellectual property rights protections.  . . .

. . .

. . . , Mr. von Hippel’s ideas are up against more conventional forms of user-aided design, such as sending anthropologists to study how people use products in their daily lives. Companies then translate their research into new designs.

Even some of Mr. von Hippel’s acolytes remain cautious. “A lot of this is still in the category of, ‘You could imagine this working out really well,’ ” says Saul T. Griffith, who as an M.I.T. engineering student was part of a group of kite-surfers who developed products for their sport that have since become commercialized. Mr. von Hippel wrote about Mr. Griffith in his 2005 book, “Democratizing Innovation.

 

For the full story, see:

MICHAEL FITZGERALD.  "Prototype How to Improve It? Ask Those Who Use It."  The New York Times, Section 3  (Sun., March 25, 2007):  5.

(Note:  ellipses added.) 

 

von Hippel has two main books in which he defends his user-driven innovation ideas:

von Hippel, Eric. The Sources of Innovation. New York:  Oxford University Press, 1988.

von Hippel, Eric. Democratizing Innovation. Cambridge, MA:  MIT Press, 2005.